Wednesday, October 10, 2012

OSU-Nebraska Halftime Show: Legal Questions

By now I hope you've all seen the glory that is TBDBITL from the OSU-Nebraska halftime show last Saturday. In a nutshell, the Ohio State marching band performed songs from classic video games and marched in formations that called to mind Super Mario Brothers, the Legend of Zelda, Pac-Man, and more. The Plain Dealer reports the feat took 14 hours of on-field practice alone and was an idea five years in the making.

But if you've begun to develop a lawyerly mind, you may be thinking about the variety of legal issues this brief nine minute spectacle raises:
  1. Does OSU have to get permission to play the video game music?
  2. Does OSU have to get permission to reproduce any trademarks (e.g., Mario) in the band's formations?
  3. Who owns the copyright in the performance? Is it the same person that owns the copyright in the video of the performance that was posted to YouTube?
  4. Who owns the copyright in the musical arrangement?
If one day you face this hypothetical scenario (say, you're general counsel at a university), you may be tempted to turn to Google for an answer. That search may get you part of the way there. But consider checking with your friendly law library, with services available even to alums: 

And when you're not researching, take advantage of free opportunities to relive the thrill of TBDBITL with skull sessions and halftime replays at the Gateway Film Center Sundays after game day.